Senior Tokoroa Hospital clinicians help out as staff shortages bite

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Senior staff at Tokoroa Hospital are having to work the wards to make up for an increasing number of staff hit by Covid-19.

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A Tokoroa Hospital patient says only one nurse was on duty when she was receiving treatment at A&E recently. Photo: LDR

Waikato District Health Board said over the last week, eight staff members were unable to work because of Covid-19.

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Not all of the absent employees were positive for Covid-19 – staff were either awaiting a test result, or there were other reasons such as caring for a family member.

Executive director hospital and community services Chris Lowry said the absence of more than six percent of the hospital’s 124 staff, because of the virus, was having an impact.

“All areas and professions across the Waikato DHB, including Tokoroa Hospital, have been impacted by Covid-19. This was expected and planned for as community cases rose, and to mitigate this various steps have been taken.”

Despite the government’s announcement last week, loosening Covid-19 rules, clinical nurse managers are still returning to “hands-on roles” by providing direct patient care, in place of staff who are unable to work.

Waikato DHB confirmed three clinical nurse managers have worked on the floor when it was unable to cover staff deficits.

“The requirement for urgent care is based on clinical recommendations following triage assessment. Generally it refers to cases which require intervention in a timely manner… Emergency care is provided when there is threat to life or serious injury which requires immediate medical intervention.”

Tokoroa resident Rana Motu said she had experienced the impact of staff shortages at the hospital.

“I would assume that they are overwhelmed [right now],” she said.

“I have [experienced staff shortages] when I’ve been admitted in A and E. Everything took longer than expected because they were short staffed [with] only one nurse on.”

As Covid-19 case numbers rise in the region, Māori and Pasifika communities in South Waikato are working hard to mobilise vaccination and booster rates.

Just over half (almost 52 percent) of eligible Māori in South Waikato have been boosted, while nearly two thirds (almost 65 percent) of eligible Pasifika have received their booster.

While staff shortages aren’t ideal for a hospital that services the entire South Waikato, Rana said she was grateful for the hospital’s staff who were still providing care for the community.

“I’m just acknowledging clinicians who go beyond their job description and are thinking more about the outcome of their patients as opposed to keeping in their lane and only doing what they are required to do.”

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers’ Association and NZ On Air.

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